Aero Contractors yesterday explained that passengers chose to disembark from the Boeing 737-500, which landed at the Bauchi Airport on Saturday, via a ladder when they could no longer wait for the airstairs. The 34-chartered passengers, including the groom, were in Bauchi to attend a wedding.
They were said to have pressured the pilot that they be allowed to disembark from the aircraft via a ladder. Though the airline did not give the name of the groom, who hired the aircraft, it said the agitated passengers forced Capt Nikcevic Vlado to allow them disembark after waiting 10 minutes for the airport manager to provide the airstairs.
Addressing a briefing yesterday in Lagos, the Accountable Manager and Managing Director, Capt Russel Lee Foon said:
He said on December 18, the Head of Ground Operations, Peter Omata, confirmed through the Bauchi Airport Manager, Mr. Abubakar, of availability of the airstairs. Prior to leaving Abuja, the flight despatcher contacted the Airport manager to advise that the aircraft was taxing out and he confirmed that they were ready to receive the flight. “At 10:42am, the aircraft touched down on Runway 35 at the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa International Airport. The controller advised the crew that due to the absence of marshallers and ramp officials, parking would be at their own discretion.” “At 10:44am, the flight despatcher on board contacted the Airport manager to advise him that they were on the ground, to which he confirmed that he has seen the aircraft and that they were waiting.
“After parking, the captain reported that they waited for 10 minutes for the stairs to be brought to the aircraft but no assistance or stairs came to the aircraft. “The captain reported that he informed the passengers of the situation as they were beginning to get agitated. What was not known to the crew at the beginning of the flight was that the groom was on board. The wedding was to start in 20 minutes”, the Accountable manager said.
He added that at 10:57am, the crew called the controller to enquire why there was no one to position the stairs and he was told the stairs had “just broken down” and that the fire service were sorting it out. Foon said after waiting for another seven minutes the passengers became furious as they were now getting late for the wedding.
“At this point the captain went to the cabin and explained to the passengers that he may have to take them back to Abuja as they cannot disembark due to lack of stairs. “According to him, the group insisted that he cannot keep them on board the aircraft and he considered that their anger was becoming potentially threatening. “The alternative, which the fire service provided was a ladder which the passengers took as an option and on their own free will used the ladder to disembark against the wishes of the captain and crew. “The captain allowed this procedure in order to reduce what he thought was a volatile situation.”
Meanwhile, the Accountable manager said an investigation had begun and that the result could lead to changes in the airline’s operational procedures. The findings, he said, would become part of the airline training and Crew Resource Management (CRM) re-currency training exercises.
Foon said the decision to perform any further charters into Bauchi was suspended on B737 aircraft but that the airline could consider charters into Bauchi on Q400 or Dash 8-300 aircraft. The Aero boss said any future charters to destinations that were not areas of scheduled commercial flight operations must have at least one permanent ground handling company.